When considering someone’s bullshit, there’s always the “intent” counter-argument. Like Pete Kotz today is all “Oh, sure, it looks bad for the sheriff to go speak to a white supremacist group, but he’s not really a racist. He’s just rounding up brown people in order to appeal to his racist constituency. Totally different.” So, you can round up brown people specifically because they’re brown and do it to appeal to racists, but still not be racist? Okay, fine. Maybe you’re not racist, but your actions certainly are.
You can imagine other instances. But it always comes down to “We should try to understand what’s in a person’s heart before complaining about his or her behavior, because maybe he or she really didn’t mean in the way it came across.”
If you know me in person, you know why I have no tolerance for the “intent” argument. I was terrorized for years by a guy who would break into my house to leave me things, who would beat up any guy who talked to me, and threw me into a wall for talking to a guy friend, who screamed at my mother about what a whore I was, and who made the world’s weirdest attempt to rape me. And, with the exception of my dear friend, Shug, every single person I complained to–the police, my parents, teachers, even his own girlfriend–said, “He doesn’t mean anything by it. He just really likes you and has an awkward way of showing it. Just try to see things from his perspective.” The teacher who saw him throw me into a wall said I should just date him, that dating him would stop his aggression. Even when I went to college, he would still occasionally skulk around my campus. By that point, I didn’t even bother to complain. His intentions trumped my terror and my right to feel safe.
I bring this all up because I want to be clear where I’m coming from. In my personal experience, “intent” is a bullshit way for people who do know better to be excused by people who don’t want to face up to the problems in their midst. Maybe that’s not always true. Maybe I’m jaded by what happened to me.
But it has been my experience that the “intent” argument is made by people who do not want to face up to the terribleness of a situation, especially if that terribleness is perpetuated by someone they like.
Or by ourselves. There’s been plenty of bullshit I’ve pulled that I justified because “my intentions were good.” But so what? People still got hurt. The fact that I didn’t mean to only goes towards making my apologies carry more weight, not towards excusing my actions–and letting me continue on with them.
So, who cares what Hall’s intentions are? The result of the program he’s instituted is completely foreseeable. If you’re targeting a group–“illegal immigrants” in this case–that your constituency is convince is composed mostly of brown people, you’re going to single out brown people, because of their race, to check their immigration status, because that’s what the people who voted for you expect when you institute such a program.
That’s one reason the program never should have been implimented in the first place. It’s racist. In order for the people who vote for you to feel like it’s being effective, it has to target brown people, single out brown people.
It doesn’t matter if Hall himself is not personally racist, the program, in order for the public to feel it’s being effective, has to be. And the level of self-delusion a person such as Sheriff Hall has to have to convince himself that the people who are interested in hearing him talk about the 287(g) program are just interested in “solving the problem of illegal immigration” and not anxious about the influx of non-white, non-English speaking people in our city is staggering.
And yet, we see in his letter to the City Council that this is exactly what he expects us to and may even believe himself.
At no time before, during, or after did I have any idea what views this organization supported. Keep in mind, I was speaking about the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office immigration program during this meeting – there was never any discussion of their purpose or mission.
This is a man who is supposed to be one of our top law enforcement officers and he wants us (and himself) to believe that it’s too much to ask to connect the dots between a “Council of Conservative Citizens,” his 287(g) program, and racism?
Daron Hall, let me be clear, THE MOST ENTHUSIASTIC SUPPORTERS OF YOUR PROGRAM ARE RACISTS. Period. The end. If a group asks you to come speak about 287(g) and they seem excited about it, you should be suspicious that they are racists. Your policies caused a pregnant woman to be shackled to a hospital bed while she was in labor. Reports said that the nurses who attended her were so upset by her treatment that they were crying. Let me repeat, your policies are so draconian you can make nurses cry. Nurses! Who see sick and dying people every day. Your policies towards Hispanics in this city suck.
287(g) is not nor has it ever been value-neutral. It has always been about terrorizing the Spanish-speaking population of Nashville. Fine, I believe that Hall might not intend it that way. He may believe his intentions are good. But the program is terrorizing Spanish-speaking Nashvillians and it’s emboldening and pleasing racists. So who cares what the intentions are? The effects are terrible.
And did Hall send a letter to the community organizations and churches and media in the community most affected by his terrible policies apologizing to them for providing an evening’s entertainment to a group of people who actively wish that community ill?
I mean, really.
If there was any trust between the Hispanic community in Nashville and the Sheriff’s department, it’s got to be ruined now.
And I’d like to hear from the Sheriff what he’s going to do to repair it. I don’t think “Oh, I won’t talk to racist groups again. I promise.” is exactly going to cut it.